Savage Inequalities Book Report

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¶ … Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools

Jonathan Kozol was a school teacher working for a segregated school where his students were non-white in 1964. The school facilities were of poor quality and severely understaffed. Kozol introduced children to African-American poetry and indirectly questioned the status of African-Americans in the United States and for that he was dismissed from his teaching. He spent many years working for various jobs and, missing schoolchildren, decided to travel around America and see if the school conditions changed since his departure from school. What he found was a shocking reality of school segregation based on class and racism. Schools he found in suburban neighborhoods, populated by white and rich families, were of excellent quality, while schools in urban schools populated by non-whites were in saddening conditions, reflecting "savage inequalities" of the American society. His book chronicles his observations of these schools and why the inequality still persists in America. His visit took place between the years 1988 and 1990.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Book Report on Savage Inequalities Assignment

Kozol begins his journey with East St. Louis, the city which is in ruins and has no doctors to tend for pregnant women and no sewage system properly working, and worst of all, no viable escape from poverty. The population of the city is overwhelmingly black and poor, and the diseases are endemic because of bad nutrition and the fact that chemical plants pour pollution into the air. The city cannot generate enough tax money because the unemployment is very high. The sewage leak in the city floods playgrounds and causes typhoid, cholera, and other illnesses. The sewage runoffs largely come from the factories and sewage systems of the neighboring towns where the population is white and rich. These rich people, however, do not help with funds to clean up the East St. Louis. To get a better picture of what is happening in the city, Kozol talks to some children and they tell horrific stories, one noting that a friend of his had been beaten to death with a stick and dumped behind the playground, while another child tells of a grandmother who had been recently shot dead. Kozol also meets a man from India who cannot believe that a kind of a Third World life is being allowed in the United States.

The conditions for children in the city are atrocious. Kozol cannot find a family theater but only a porno theater. The city has one of the highest infant and child mortality rates in the country, and many children who have serious health problems cannot get adequate help. Kids do not get the required immunization, which makes the prevalence of chronic and deadly diseases more likely. Kozol points out that part of the problem is historical. In the nineteenth century railroad Corporations lured many ex-slaves to the city to force local workers to work for cheaper wages. But during the Depression era, Corporations moved out of the city in search of cheaper labor, and eventually many African-Americans in East. St. Louis became unemployed. Factories in the neighboring towns do not hire blacks because they are not well-educated. Lack of good quality education prevents blacks from finding decent jobs, and high unemployment prevents them from getting a good quality education. In other words, poor blacks are locked in a vicious circle which permanently confines them to hopeless ghettoes.

Kozol is especially saddened by the conditions in schools. In schools he visits, sewage runs into the lunchroom kitchens. Qualified teachers are routinely laid off and replaced with temporary "substitutes" who are ready to work for meager wages. The teachers do not have enough chalks or paper, while children do not have motivation to study. No modern facilities, no computer rooms or sports clubs are available for children. Children's IQ is well below the national average, and the textbooks used in classes are outdated. Math is not properly taught and Kozol meets a teacher who allows children to play cards in the hopes that playing it can help children improve their rudimentary math skills. Most tragic is the fact that city and state officials are not willing to pump any more money to solve the problems of East St. Louis. The governor says the city needs to solve its own problems by encouraging proper family values, arguing that money will not solve the problem.

From East St. Louis, Kozol moves to North Lawndale and the South Side of Chicago. Lawndale is not much different from East. St. Louis. The city is a large slum, with no industry or factories. A local Reverend tells Kozol that factories have been replaced by gangs. Kozol again visits schools that remind him of his experiences in East St. Louis. The schools are understaffed or poorly staffed and many teachers are not motivated to teach, blaming the parents for the problem with children. Kozol sees that there are qualified teachers who can engage children better, but these are rather exceptions than the rule. Many children come to school every day just to find out that they have no classes. The books are in horrible conditions because some schools do not have libraries where books can be properly stored. In the eyes of the Illinois Governor, the schools are "sink holes."

Kozol observes that while white kids in rich suburban schools around Chicago are supported by lavish funds ($8,000 spent on each of them), poor nonwhite children in urban areas get far less support ($5,000). Part of the reason, Kozol says, is the way tax system in the United States works. The schools are funded by the property taxes which are based on the value of property. Rich parents in suburban areas live in more expensive houses and the property taxes they pay generate greater amount of money to schools located nearby, while poor parents live in inexpensive and dilapidated houses and thus cannot generate enough money. The problem is compounded by the fact that rich families receive lots of tax deductions, for mortgage interest paid and property tax paid, from the federal government. This difference in spending for rich and poor schools is obviously reflected in the conditions there. Kozol sees that a wealthy suburban school in Chicago boasts a large pool, three gyms, modern facilities, and there is a school counselor for every 24 children, whereas in poor schools there is a counselor for every 420 children. Like in East St. Louis, city governors refuse to spend more money on poor schools, arguing that more parental involvement is the answer to the problem rather than money. President Bush's Education Secretary William Bennett as well as Chicago Tribune agree with local governors.

From Chicago, Kozol travels to New York City and finds that the level of inequality there is even greater. Here, $11,000 is spent on each child in wealthy suburban areas, while children in poor urban neighborhoods receive only $5,500 each. Kozol is dismayed by the fact that officials in the Board of Education complain about unequal spending in different cities in the country but do not address the problem of unequal spending in communities and neighborhoods that live side by side. The problem here again is with the way public education is financed. Families in wealthy suburbs get more money for financing their nearby schools because of the greater value of their property, while public schools in poor urban areas are underfunded and children there end up getting the least qualified teachers although they are in need of better teachers. Shortage of funds is reflected in the school conditions as well. School administrators in poor schools place fish tanks and plants inside because schools do not even have windows to ventilate the air.

Then there is the problem with state legislators who exacerbate savage inequalities in public schools. Many legislators manipulate federal programs so that these programs can better serve wealthy suburban areas. For example, they allocate greater amounts of grants and other financial support to regions where they have political allies. According to a report in the New York Post, money allocated to fight drug abuse in poor neighborhoods was skillfully channeled into financing public schools in wealthy suburbs. Thus the state government further exacerbates the federal unequal spending, by allocating just ninety cents per child in poor urban schools and fourteen dollars per child in rich suburban schools. The way money is spent by state legislators, Kozol suggests, smacks of racism. They believe that spending for poor schools would be waste of money since children in these schools do not perform well. Some media commentators and even sociologists agree with this assessment and argue that money is better spent on rich schools where children perform well.

The state legislators in New York, Kozol argues, are more willing to spend money on building prisons than opening new schools or improving the conditions in poor neighborhoods. Kozol is outraged by the fact that the city spends large sums of money to maintaining prisoners (many of whom are school dropouts) whereas far less amount of money… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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